Strong personal story, political drama and action tale top the Tuesday, Feb. 2, DVD releases.
“Freeheld”: 3 stars. The film, based on the 2007 documentary short film of the same name, looks at the battle by Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), a much heralded New Jersey police lieutenant, and her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page), to secure Hester’s pension benefits after Hester is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Hester’s health declines as she battles with the county’s board of elected freeholders about whether domestic partners have the same rights as married couples.
Moore is brilliant as she plays Hester with great dignity, courage and commitment, even in the final days.
The performance works so well because it is not filled with great bravado, despite the battle being so important to same-sex couples. The strength comes from Moore playing the role on a personal level. It’s a story bigger than one couple, but director Peter Sollett keeps pulling back the emotional moments as a reminder that the majority of stories of national importance start with ordinary people.
It isn’t only the very believable connection played out by Moore and Page that makes the film work. Michael Shannon is great in his role as Dane Wells, Hester’s police partner who not only must deal with losing a person he cares for deeply, but face the ugliness in the way Hester’s sexuality is treated by fellow officers.
The script by Ron Nyswaner has problems. The overall story lacks depth. Instead of showing what the events mean in a broader context, Nyswaner keeps circling back to overplayed courthouse scenes.
“The Last Witch Hunter”: 1 star. The White Queen seeks revenge on her killer. The lame plot has acting’s answer to drywall, Vin Diesel, playing the immortal witch hunter Kaulder. Because of a truce forged years ago with the witches, it doesn’t seem like he’s had a lot to do except seduce flight attendants in the past few centuries.
“Our Brand is Crisis”: 2 stars. The effort by director David Gordon Green and writer Peter Straughan to turn the 2005 documentary of the same name into a light comedy with touches of romance and political highjinks leaves the fictional version a poor candidate in the box office race. There is no way the drama of the real election could be surpassed — or even matched — by a fictionalized accounting. Green and Straughan’s efforts do nothing more than water down the story.
“Suffragette”: 2 1/2 stars. The film looks at ordinary women who waged a war for voting rights in England at the beginning of the 20th century. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan look at this monumental moment through the eyes of Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), which gives them a specific point of view for the mammoth story. Mulligan turns in a strong performance, going from a woman who has quietly resigned herself to a certain life to a woman who is willing to speak out for others. It’s a transition that comes slowly and feels real.
ALSO NEW ON DVD
“Bridge of Spies”: Tom Hanks is a Brooklyn lawyer thrust into the center of the Cold War.
“Show Me a Hero”: Oscar Isaac stars in this HBO miniseries about a young mayor battling with social issues that tear apart his city.
“Extraordinary Tales”: Five of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales are brought to life.
“Truth”: Veteran news producer and anchor come under harsh scrutiny.
“Meadowland”: Couple falls apart after unimaginable loss.
“Zoolander”: Original film is being released before sequel hits theaters.
“All Hallow’s Eve 2”: VHS tape reveals ghastly tales.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”: Classic Disney animated film available on digital HD for the first time.
“Shimmer and Shine”: Nickelodeon series about the misadventures of magical twin sisters.
“For Better or For Worse”: Wedding coordinator, divorce lawyer clash.
“Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet”: Animated adaptation of the best-selling book.
“My Boyfriends’ Dogs”: Each failed relationship means a new dog for a woman.
“Martyrs”: Ten-year-old girl struggles with nightmares after she escapes from her captor.
“Noah’s Ark”: An angel instructs a farmer to build massive boat to survive the upcoming flood.
“Hellions”: Strange trick-or-treaters plague conflicted teenager.
“From Dusk Till Dawn: Season Two”: Series spin-off from Robert Rodriguez’s cult classic film franchise.
“Home Invasion”: Woman (Natasha Henstridge) fights to survive when robbers break into her home.
“The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven’s Palace”: Monkey born from a heavenly stone gets supernatural powers.
“The Sin Seer”: Detective’s latest case makes her the target of the killer.
“Uncaged”: Teen is unwitting heir to a monstrous family legacy of savagery, slaughter and horror.